Today, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) called on Speaker Ryan to immediately bring up the Families of Fallen Servicemembers Act, bipartisan legislation with Congressman Tom Rooney to ensure the immediate payment of military death benefits to survivors of fallen servicemembers during federal government shutdowns or any other circumstance when federal spending authority lapses. The legislation now has 144 cosponsors. Connolly and Rooney originally introduced the legislation in April.
“It is unconscionable that in times of need and grief our military families would see the payment of death benefits delayed because of the Trump Shutdown. There is a clear will in Congress to get this done. Congress must act now,” said Connolly.
“We have a sacred obligation with every man or woman who dons the uniform in defense of our nation and with the families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We cannot allow political posturing in Congress or other factors that force a government shutdown to prevent the distribution of funds and other resources to military families in times of need and grief. We must honor our commitment, no matter what,” Connolly added.
Following the 2013 government shutdown, Congress passed The Honoring Families of Fallen Soldiers Act (H. J. Res. 91), which provided a continuing appropriation for military survivor death benefits, but only for fiscal year 2014. The legislation did not make any such provisions for the possibility of future shutdowns. The Connolly-Rooney bill would make permanent the appropriation for military death benefits and other survivor benefits, protecting military families of fallen servicemembers from Congressional inaction.
The longstanding purpose of the federal death benefit is to assist families of deceased service members in meeting their financial needs during the period immediately following a service member's death and before other survivor benefits become available. These payments are delivered within three days of a servicemember’s death so families do not have their grief compounded by worrying about financial matters, including the immediate expenses of flying to meet their loved one’s remains at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware or arranging funeral and burial services, Connolly and Rooney noted.
The benefits covered by this legislation include:
· Death gratuities for survivors of deceased military service members
· Funeral and burial expenses
· Authorized funeral travel
· A temporary continuation of a basic allowance of housing for dependents
“The sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform and their families do not cease just because Congress fails to get its job done, and neither should the financial support they deserve in times of tragedy,” the Congressmen said.